The Broward Sheriff's Office's new public corruption investigator will be working in complete cooperation with the FBI, according to sources.
That may have something to do with the fact that Sheriff Al Lamberti hired a former FBI agent, Al La Manna, to investigate local politicians. News of the cooperation is historic -- the feds and locals for years have had little to no teamwork when it comes to public corruption, including during the FBI's recent undercover sting that nabbed Eggelletion, Gallagher, and Salesman.
The State Attorney's Office and FBI have had a notoriously chilly relationship for years.
I reported on La Manna's hiring on Monday and am still waiting for sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal to respond to my questions.
That La Manna and the feds will be working together is good news for those who want to root out corruption in Broward and could be a real bummer for bad politicos.
Speaking of public corruption, there's a new mystery surrounding the investigation of Tamarac City Commissioner Patricia "Positively Patte" Atkins-Grad that can be boiled down to one question:
Who paid for Patte's party?
When Atkins-Grad won her election for city commission in 2006, she held an election night victory party at Diamante's Banquet Hall in Tamarac on March 16. A Diamante's manager, Monica Avila, confirmed the party was held there. One attendee, 94-year-old Democratic activist Lottie Albert (who is sharp as a tack), told me she believed there were about 75 people there. Such a party, at an estimated $30 a head, would likely cost a minimum of about $2,000.
Yet Atkins-Grad listed no expenditure for the party on her campaign reports. The final expenditure by the campaign was a $4,148.45 check made out to
Atkins-Grad herself to repay a loan she had made to the campaign.
Here's the kicker: A reliable political source tells me that the party tab was paid by the development firm Prestige Homes, which is owned by indicted developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. That has not been confirmed, however, and numerous attempts to question Atkins-Grad have been ignored by the commissioner. She also refused to comment when first contacted about the investigation.
At the time of the 2006 election, the developers were seeking approval for a controversial and oft-protested housing project on two golf courses in the town. The Chaits strongly backed Atkins-Grad in the 2006 election, especially since her opponent, activist Patti Lynn, was opposed to the development. Atkins-Grad and other commissioners, including Mayor Beth Talabisco-Flansbaum, returned political contributions from the Chaits when it became an election issue.
After she was elected, Atkins-Grad voted for the project.
While we're still waiting for all the facts on this case, it's known that the Chaits bribed Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion for his support with a golf club membership and cash for a total value of about $25,000. The Chaits also gave then-candidate and current Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter a golf cart and hired the husband of Ilene Lieberman to do legal work for the firm. On top of that the Chaits paid the husband of Broward School Board Member Stephanie Kraft for helping them get a $500,000 break on a district mitigation fee.
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Atkins-Grad has steadfastly refused comment and hasn't returned detailed messages I left with her today and yesterday at her city office and on her personal phone. At the very least it appears the commissioner is guilty of a campaign violation for failing to list a campaign expenditure. At most, well ... we've seen what has happened to a few other politicians who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
-- Sun-Sentinel is reporting that former star NFL defensive lineman Warren Sapp wants $103,000 from the Rothstein bankruptcy because he had the money in an RRA trust account (not affliated with the Ponzi).
-- Chip Lamarca will make it official tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Government Center in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The former Broward Republican Chair is challenging Ken Keechl for his commission seat. Good, is all I can say. Here's the release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2010
Lighthouse Point City Commissioner Chip LaMarca and supporters will make a special announcement regarding LaMarca's future plans.
Who: Commissioner Chip LaMarca and supporters
What: A special announcement regarding Commissioner LaMarca's future political plans
When: Thursday, May 20th, 2:00 pm
Where: Broward Government Center Lobby, 115 South Andrews Ave. Fort Lauderdale